Records 2 Live 4 2023 Page 4

Andrey Henkin


Slayer: Reign In Blood
Def Jam Recordings GHS 24131 (LP). 1986. Rick Rubin, Slayer, prods.; Andy Wallace, eng.

Even the greatest artists need direction. Would The Beatles have reached their apex without George Martin? By 1986, Slayer was a good band, with some decent studio dates. But it took collaboration with another early-20-something in Rick Rubin, coming out of hip-hop for his first foray into heavy metal, to create something iconic. The 10 tracks and 27 minutes of Reign in Blood, written by guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, the genre's Lennon-McCartney, distilled the band's punk-like energy while revealing subtlety and nuance—yes, metal has both—through superior production, especially evident in the multilayered drumming of Dave Lombardo. No disrespect to Brian Slagel, who discovered the group, but Rick Rubin made them legends.


Pat Martino: Baiyina (The Clear Evidence)
Pat Martino, guitar, comp.; Bobby Rose, guitar; Gregory Herbert, alto saxophone, flute; Richard Davis, bass; Charlie Persip, drums; Reggie Ferguson, tabla; Khalil Balakrishna, tambura
Prestige 7589 (LP). 1968. Don Schlitten, prod.; Richard Alderson, eng.

Musicians tend to develop incrementally but, then, the late '60s were a time of bold innovation. So it was in that heady environment that late Italian-American guitarist Pat Martino, Philly stalwart and greasy soul-jazz veteran under the likes of Willis Jackson and Jack McDuff, recorded Baiyina (The Clear Evidence), subtitled "A psychedelic excursion through the magical mysteries of the Koran." Nothing in his first three albums, all aesthetically consistent with his early sideman work, could have predicted it: Martino echoed by second guitarist Bobby Rose and surrounded by Indian percussion and mystical flute. And, apart from "Israfel", Martino's speedy virtuosity was muted in lieu of deep, atmospheric playing. Too much was made of Pat Martino's later career-impeding stroke and not enough of this masterpiece.

Jon Iverson


Vancouver Sleep Clinic: Fallen Paradise
Vancouver Sleep Clinic/Believe (16/44.1 download). 2022. Charlie J. Perry, prod.; Michael Brauer, eng.

I had no idea what to expect when this album popped up on the new-release list midsummer. The name seemed a bit jive, but it only took a couple of listens, and I was hooked. Vancouver Sleep Clinic (VSC) is really Australian Tim Bettinson, who explains, "I felt like it could be the type of atmospheric music that people could fall asleep to. Thus the Sleep Clinic part. Vancouver looks like a beautiful place, and I thought it would be perfect to add [its name] at the front for originality and experimentation." Okay, but the music won't put you to sleep. Instead, Bettinson taps into the atmospheric riches of predecessors Sigur Rós, Bon Iver, and Fleet Foxes, creating gorgeous melodic vocal lines padded with rich harmonies, thrumming guitars, electronics, and drums. In my alternate musical universe, this gets the Grammy, and Taylor Swift is still playing coffee houses.


Rodrigo Gallardo & Nicola Cruz: El Origen
Wonderwheel Recordings (16/44.1 download). 2017. Rodrigo Gallardo, Nicola Cruz, prods.

I'm still stuck on the Central/South American folklórico groove (likely forever), hence this wondrous follow-up to one of last year's picks, Chancha Via Circuito's Bienaventuranza. This time, we get a slightly more traditional approach from Chile (Gallardo) and Ecuador (Cruz), with occasional vocals, while percussion keeps the feet moving. The combination of mostly indigenous acoustic instruments and subtle electronica roots everything in the here and now. The album consists of four songs in two sets (eight tracks): The first contains the original Gallardo compositions; the second, Cruz's remixes. If you want to hear Gallardo stretch out a bit more, his 2021 Indómita is equally compelling.

Anne E. Johnson


The Hilliard Ensemble: Pérotin
ECM New Series 1385 (CD). 1989. Paul Hillier, director; Manfred Eicher, prod.; Peter Laenger, eng.

Choral music owes a debt to 13th century French composer Pérotin, who wrote organum (polyphonic arrangement of Gregorian chant) for the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

The Hilliard Ensemble was not the first to record Pérotin's music. It was, however, the first to simulate the temperament—the mathematical micromeasurement of each interval—that Pérotin himself would have expected to hear. Director Paul Hillier uses Pythagorean temperament, keeping the fifths and fourths—the bedrock of medieval organum—pure. Boxgrove Priory, in Sussex, England, stands in nicely for the acoustically superb Notre Dame, and the resulting sonorities can transport the mind. This mesmerizing recording was one of the reasons I studied medieval music history in graduate school.


Harry Belafonte: Swing Dat Hammer
Belafonte Folk Singers, vocals; Millard Thomas, guitar.
RCA Victor LSP 2194 (LP). 1960. Bob Bollard, prod.; Bob Simpson, eng.

In 1957, folklorist Alan Lomax released an album of songs collected from black convicts in chain gangs. Harry Belafonte made those songs his own in Swing Dat Hammer, an intimate and heartrending drama. The songs speak of prisoners longing for home and imagining escape.

The arrangements, by Robert De Cormier, enhance the songs' transformation. From the harsh, rhythmic breaths that imitate picks striking rock in "Look Over Yonder" to the echoing responses in "Go Down Old Hannah," the Belafonte Folk Singers are an integral part of he musical architecture. Belafonte's nuanced expressiveness makes his interpretations utterly compelling. Whereas the Lomax field recordings are sonically rough, this record was produced in high fidelity by Bob Bollard, allowing Belafonte to display his significant acting abilities in song.

Sasha Matson


The Bothy Band: The Best Of The Bothy Band
Mulligan/Green Linnet LUN 3041 (CD). 1980. Dónal Lunny, Mícháel Domhnaill, prods.; various engs.

The Bothy Band, active in Ireland in the 1970s, was made up of brother and sister Mícháel and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, fiddler Kevin Burke, Dónal Lunny on bouzouki, Matt Malloy on flutes, and Paddy Keenan on pipes. The band has long been credited with re-energizing the sound of traditional Irish music, including electric keyboards in the mix along with classical acoustic instrumentation. Their repertoire was all ancient Celtic folk music, played with a vengeance: from sad funereal songs (when you hear "The death of Queen Jane," I betcha you're gonna cry) to manic reels.


Frank Sinatra: The Frank Sinatra Deluxe Set
Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Billy May Orchestra.
Capitol Records STFL 2814 (6 LPs). 1968. Various prods.; various engs.

Capitol Records recorded Sinatra during his greatest singing years with the greatest arrangers. This 1968 box set was a reissue of six of Sinatra's definitive albums for Capitol on fine-sounding '60s vinyl with the rainbow labels. With Nelson Riddle and Billy May at the wheel, it doesn't get any better. "Only the Lonely," "Cheek to Cheek," "As Time Goes By"—there are 70 tracks here. Sinatra, "The Voice," sounds Olympian here: effortless, timeless, amazing. Used copies are plentiful, and a similar three-CD set titled The Capitol Years (Capitol CDP 7 94317 2) is also available.

Mike Mettler


Lindsey Buckingham: Out Of The Cradle
Reprise 9 26182-2 (CD). 1992. Lindsey Buckingham, Richard Dashut, prods.; Greg Droman, Kevin Killen, engs.

One of my most joyous shared listening experiences occurred in July 1999 when I played some decidedly nonclassical music for Neeme Järvi, then the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's music director. The piece I played was the short "Instrumental Introduction" preceding "This Is the Time" on Lindsey Buckingham's Out of the Cradle, his June 1992 solo album. Järvi listened attentively, conducting along, and finally said, "That's a good composition."

I reconnect with Järvi's joy every time I listen to this album, whether it's the high-pitched caterwauling in the back half of "Wrong" (courtesy of Buckingham's Turner Model 1 guitar, which was plugged directly into a distortion preamp) or the Far Eastern tones permeating "This Is the Time" (channeled via his 1963 hybrid Stratocaster's B and high-E strings).

Out of the Cradle has yet to see an official LP release, although 9 of its 16 tracks appear on the artist's personally curated Solo Anthology: The Best of Lindsey Buckingham (2018), a six-LP box set, remastered by Stephen Marcussen.


Porcupine Tree: Deadwing
Lava/DTS Entertainment 69286-01130-9-1 (DVD-V). 2005. Steven Wilson, Gavin Harrison, Richard Barbieri (2.0), Elliot Scheiner (5.1), prods.; Paul Northfield, George Schilling, engs.

Today, Steven Wilson is at the forefront, pushing the limits of surround sound and Atmos mixing. But when Wilson's post-prog band Porcupine Tree gained steam in 2005 with Deadwing, the British guitarist/vocalist was taking notes from Elliot Scheiner, the album's surround mixer. Scheiner set a strong template with the full-channel punch of "Lazarus" (harmonious), "Halo" (heavenly), and "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" (harrowing). Until Wilson uplifts Deadwing into the Atmos universe himself, Scheiner's 24-bit/48kHz DTS mix on this DVD-V (so designated due to supplemental video content) remains the blueprint.

ChrisS's picture

Say no more.

Jazzlistener's picture

Star Wars fan, my vote would have been for R2D2 - Records to Dance To. :)

cognoscente's picture

Crossover by Dua Saleh *

Greenzone 108 by Greentea Peng *

Forbidden Feelingz by Nia Archives *

Air by Sault *

A Light For Attraction Attention by The Smile *

Push the Sky Away by Nick Cave & Bad Seeds ***

The Specials by The Specials **

Shiva Feshareki: Turning World by Shiva Feshareki *

Itemporal by Sarah Davachi/Ariel Kalma ***

Bloom by Areni Agbabian ***

Combination of recent releases (*), rediscoveries (**) and delayed discoveries (***)

Lars Bo's picture

Thanks, Kalman - the Matangi Outcast recordings are really something.

Another recommendation of the Ukrainian Silvestrov: His "Silent Songs" w. Yakovenko/Scheps, on ECM (cd only). It must have been less than a spotless reel-to-reel used in 1986 in Moscow, but humanity and emotions are grippingly authentic.

volvic's picture

Kudos to Ms. Johnson for mentioning the extraordinary Pérotin recording from the Hilliard Ensemble. It is a mesmerizing performance that doesn't’ get the due or mention it deserves. Well done!!!

Some great recommendations from others here as well, question! Do I need another Beethoven series and a period performance of Mahler’s 4th?

Kal Rubinson's picture

Some great recommendations from others here as well, question! Do I need another Beethoven series.....

I own multiple sets of the Beethoven symphonies as well as many individual symphonies but I nominated the Savall Beethoven set (Syms 1-6) because I believe you do.

Poor Audiophile's picture

for me!

volvic's picture

Will let my fingers do the clicking and add it to the pile.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Considering the cost and despite my enthusiasm, I still recommend that you sample it on-line before making such an investment.

volvic's picture

I always do, but everyone is quite enthusiastic about these recordings, so just might take the plunge. Then again, everyone was enthusiastic over Hogwood's Beethoven cycle which doesn't really work after the 4th, but this could be different. The problem for me these days is lack of space in the ever shrinking Manhattan apartment.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

That's what I began to do after two Gramophone reviewers chose Savall's Beethoven 6-9 as their favorite recording of the year.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I was disappointed with the 6-9 as a set.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Hi Kal,

I haven't had time to listen to more than a few bits. Far more on my plate than anyone of normal appetite should dare attempt to consume in one sitting. It's on the list... the very long list. Until then, I greatly appreciate learning your opinion.


volvic's picture

Will start with the 6-9 set.

Kal Rubinson's picture

FWIW, 1-5 were recorded as the culmination of a deep immersion (described in the booklet) into the scores and the context in 2019, prior to the Pandemic. It was released in 2020. The 6-9 set was recorded in 2020 during the Pandemic which deeply intruded itself into the process and delayed its release until 2022. It is no wonder that the results are not as good as the earlier ones made in better times and without Pandemic constraints.

You can have my 6-9 set if you want it. It's good, such as it is, but not outstanding and not an urgent recommendation. My R2L4 recommendation was for only the 1-5 set.

volvic's picture

Just read about the recording timeline this morning and the obstacles the pandemic threw at the whole recording process. A shame. I will listen to it but not keep it; I will purchase my copy if I like it. Thanks for offering.

volvic's picture

Hello JVS, Happy New Year! I don't stream, for many reasons, so that option is out for me.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Hmmmm. Manhattan apartment, eh? Mebbe just borrow mine to decide. ;-)

volvic's picture

Many thanks for offering; too kind. I suspect we're not that far from each other; I'm in the UES. I will take the plunge and purchase. Just listened to his 9th, a live performance and was deeply impressed. I will be purchasing. Will revert when I listen to them.

Kal Rubinson's picture

ok's picture doesn't mean that much to us grownups anymore.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Then, why are you here?

ok's picture

it still means a lot :)

Kal Rubinson's picture

Hmm. OK.